Bored Of The Rings – Douglas Kenny and Henry Beard

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I can’t decide if I love or hate this cover. I’ll just satisfy myself by saying that it is certainly one of the most memorable images I’ve seen on a book for a long time, but far from the most beautiful. One glance at the cover makes it immediately obvious that Bored Of The Rings is a parody of Lord of the Rings.

Within my fuzzy memory I remember that during the early noughties there was a flood of hard-cover books, of odd sizes, appearing in bookstores that parodied the bestsellers or blockbusters of the time. My personal favourite is Michael Gerber’s Barry Trotter and the Shameless Parody, which has proudly sat on my desk for the last year. Although I also enjoyed a The Di Vinci Code parody, although I cannot remember whether it was The Asti-Spumanti Code or The Va Dinci Cod. I mention these literary footnotes because I’m certain that they are descendants of Bored of the Rings, although I’m equally sure that the grinning visage of Alfred E. Neuman looms large in their genealogy.

The plot of parodies tend to be largely identical to the original work, only with sillier names and truckloads of comedic exaggeration. So it is with Bored. Frito Bugger, the nephew of Dildo Bugger, must leave the Sty with his friend Spam and journey with the mysterious wizard Goodgulf to destroy a cursed ring. Along the way he must evade narcs, pig-riding nozdruls, and the deadly Ballhog. The main tension of the novel is not how the plot will play out, but what the next ridiculous spin Tolkien’s classic will be. I’m less fond of parodies that slavishly follow the plot-lines of stories that inspire them, preferring those that take familiar elements and place them in unlikely settings (like Barry Trotter), but Bored‘s plot works well.

The other thing that annoys me about parodies, Bored, Barry Trotter  and Mad Magazine included, is their tendency to make all characters either incredibly venal or impossibly stupid. Goodgulf is a two-bit huckster, Pepsi and Moxie are complete fools, Dildo is implied at one point to be a pedophile… the only character who was even vaguely admirable is Frito, who plays the straight man. If I were to write a parody (which I’d be happy to do for money), I’d make the characters nicer and smarter than the originals. I saw a bit of this in Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, with the protagonist pointing out the inane details of the original’s plot. Not having every parodic character be completely vile is good for the diversity of the genre, although given that Bored was published in 1969 I’ll give it a pass.

This book is very sixties, with all the sometimes esoteric references that entails. I think that a narc is a policeman or a police informer, but what does Goodgulf’s Nehru jacket look like? I understood the text despite these cryptic background references, but maybe I’d have enjoyed Bored more if I was alive during its publication.

I recommend Bored of the Rings to anyone interested in comedic writing, especially the fantastic sort. I’m having trouble deciding whether having read Lord of the Rings would increase your enjoyment of the text. A Tolkien fan would appreciate more of the jokes and perhaps be more motivated to read the book, but they’d also know exactly what would happen next. Such are the questions that plague us sentient beings. All I can tell you is that I enjoyed Bored of the Rings, and that if you appreciate puns, postmodernism and anachronistic humour, you will as well.

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